Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
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Friday, March 31, 2021

More people willing to cough up dough for Sirius equipment and subscriptions, that is. The King of All Media is peeved that he hasn’t converted more listeners to satellite:

“I was just at my psychiatrist and I said, ‘I just got great news: We hit the 4 million mark. And I’m angry. It should be 20 million,’” Stern says in [this week's Entertainment Weekly], on newsstands Monday.

“It’s insulting to me that everyone hasn’t come with me. I take it personally,” he says.

“I want to say to my audience… ‘You haven’t come with me yet? How dare you? We’re up to wild, crazy stuff, the show has never sounded better. You cheap bastard!’”

A provocative stunt by Stern, with low risk: It’s not going to lose him any existing subscribers, even if unlikely to challenge many to ante up. Even if calculated, I’m sure it served as an effective personal vent. But even calculating in a massive ego, even Stern should have known that the critical mass to be achieved with his move to satellite wouldn’t be that critical. Besides, 4 million is nothing to sneeze at.

If Stern really wants to juice up the numbers, he needs better exposure. The fact is, satellite programming has no presence to those who aren’t already subscribing. The perfect outlet: A television show! Getting back on E! is pretty well out of the question, considering his current court hassles with his old bosses; but I’d definitely tune in for a rebirth of his old show on some other cable station. A five-day-a-week video recap of his show would create a steady stream of new sign-ups. Definitely an avenue to reopen.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 03/31/2006 07:36:30 PM
Category: Radio
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wake up!
This week has been National Sleep Awareness Week. And as you can see, the National Sleep Foundation got the word out all over.

Is it just me, or does it seem like a bad idea to flash a highway-sign message that could induce drowsiness? As sleep-deprived as most people are, there’s no sense in making visual-cue suggestions at 55+ miles per hour.

I wasn’t aware of the significance of this week until today, but coincidentally, I did something to aid my own slumbering ways. I’m not the sound sleeper I used to be in my youth — it seems like the slightest ruckus outdoors wakes me up nowadays. It’s been this way for years, and outside of buying a home in the remote countryside, it’s hard to avoid.

I’ve tried earplugs in the past, but they never did the trick. Still, I went to the drugstore to find a brand worthy of another shot. 3M Nexcare Foam Earplugs looked better than those ball o’ wax alternatives, so I bought a pack. Turns out they work great! The only hassle is positioning them into the ear canal the right way; but once they’re in, they filter out enough sound to allow me to sleep through the night and well past the time that the street clatter gets going to full volume.

So I’ll have to keep the Nexcare plugs on my list. Now I’m gonna go take a nap.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 03/31/2006 07:10:28 PM
Category: Science, Society
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When I first saw the trailer for Snakes on a Plane on Tiny Little Dots, I was sure it was a fake. Yeah, there was a New Line Cinema logo on it, and Samuel L. Jackson is in it, but such things are easily forged.

But no, it’s all too real.

And we have Jackson to thank for the most half-baked movie title to come along in, well, forever (despite what Yahoo! Buzz thinks). Not only did he agree to do this movie based solely on the title, he even prevented a name change to “Flight 121″. Another dumb title, and it wouldn’t have improved what’s looking like a toxic piece of celluloid anyway; but geez.

What bugs me the most is the nagging feeling I’m getting that this gambit is going to pay off fantastically. Snakes is probably going to wind up being a blockbuster, and then every studio’s going to come out with flicks with similarly dumbed-down tags: “Slasher in the Mall”, “Funny Guy in New Jersey”, etc. Telegraphed theatrical entertainment.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 03/31/2006 11:20:58 AM
Category: Movies
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When the Office of the Director of National Intelligence starting gearing up last year, I figured it was going to predictably develop into another level of bureaucratic strata:

Beyond that, these early indications tell me that the new National Intelligence office is going to be nothing more than an administrative extension of the CIA, thereby giving that agency more clout for interdepartmental turf battles. Since the DNI was intended to be set above and apart from the various intelligence agencies in Washington, it appears early concerns that it would develop into an unneeded governmental layer had validity.

It looks like Congress concurs, demanding an “architectural study” of the DNI to justify its expanding staff and operations:

The bill would require the nation’s intelligence director, John D. Negroponte, to present a detailed rationale for any additional increases to his staff or risk losing a portion of his budget. The measure was endorsed by Republicans and Democrats.

“We’re concerned about some of the steps that are going on” at Negroponte’s office, said Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Hoekstra said Negroponte needed to demonstrate that any further expansion would improve coordination among intelligence agencies, and would not amount to “putting in more lawyers and slowing down the process.”

Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice [Calif.]), the ranking Democrat on the committee, cited similar concerns.

“We don’t want more billets, more bureaucracy, more buildings,” Harman said. “We want more leadership.”

It really wasn’t hard to see this coming. When you create a governmental agency, it’s got nowhere to go but the bloat route. In the case of trying to coordinate the intellgence fiefdoms, forget it.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 03/31/2006 10:17:25 AM
Category: Politics
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Thursday, March 30, 2021

Well, I’ve been on break for long enough. It’s time to reenter the workforce — what the hell.

So this Monday, I’ll be doing just that. I’m heading into a for-real office to do some for-real payroll work.

More than anything, I’m glad to just be occupied. It’s been great moving back to New York, and exploring/reacquainting myself with the area. But I’ve found that long-term idleness is actually quite draining. There’s only so much nothing you can pack into a day; after a while, it’s mind-numbingly boring.

The money will be good — I’m not broke, but the cash reserve is certainly decreasing — but it’ll be better just to get out of the house and be productive. The only downside: Having to wear a shirt and tie regularly, for the first time in years (I’d gotten well-accustomed to Florida’s all-week business casual garb). Oh, and I guess having to shave every day will be something of a drag; but discipline!

No need to divulge too much just yet, because it’s technically a temporary assignment, currently slated for three months. But the interview went so well — they hired me next day, bypassing other candidates — that they’re already talking about putting me in the permanent rotation. Even if that doesn’t work out, I can keep looking for other gigs in the meantime.

I will say this: It’s not in publishing. It is in corporate marketing and Internet media. And it looks to keep my wordsmithing ways really busy for the next several weeks. I should be able to squeeze in the usual amount of blogging at the same time.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 03/30/2006 11:11:36 PM
Category: General
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Apple just released a firmware update for the iPod. The main feature was a maximum volume limit, which drew all the attention due to recent hearing-damage lawsuits.

I’m fine with a governor option to keep kids from blowing out their eardrums. But I was peeved that there was no detailed information, from Apple or any other source, about the declared “bug fixes” included in this update (1.1.1 for me, owner of the latest-model 5th Generation iPod with video). When it comes to software, I generally go with the ain’t-broke-don’t-fix philosophy, eschewing potential enhancement (and unforeseen glitches) for established reliability.

On the other hand, despite my overall satisfaction with the iPod, there were a couple of things off about it. The main thing: The menu interface would go from smooth-scrolling on lists and between screens, to a herky-jerky slowdown while navigating during song playback. This even affected the gameplay on the minigames included on the unit.

So if nothing else, I’d have liked the update to fix this obvious bug. Other tweaks would have been nice, like the ability to adjust the screen contrast/brightness; but the menu interface was the main thing.

After sifting through news articles, blogs and forums for a day, and finding no info on the “other” aspect of 1.1.1, I finally decided to bite the bullet and just run the update myself.

The results: It didn’t foul up the iPod. It added the volume governor (which I’ll probably never use). It didn’t include an option for adjusting the screen contrast/brightness, but I wasn’t expecting that anyway. As for the menu animation: Honestly, I can’t quite tell. It seems to be flowing more smoothly than before, but it’s hard to say. And I think it’s still a bit slower during playback than when there’s no song playing in the background.

Ultimately, no harm done. But if you don’t need that volume limit, and aren’t experiencing any other peculiarities, then I’m not sure this update is absolutely necessary.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 03/30/2006 10:38:21 PM
Category: iPod
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How do you keep the Mexicans from sneaking across the border? As the NAFTA nations meet to tackle the issue, some suggest economically sprucing up their home country so that its residents wouldn’t want to leave in the first place.

Not a new concept — it’s what the North American Free Trade Association was set up to do, indirectly — but the proposed model offers something of a refresher course:

But when the European Union expanded in the 1980s and adopted new members, including Spain and Portugal, it spent more than $500 billion in aid to narrow the income gap between the newcomers and the most prosperous EU countries. Immigration [from Spain and Portugal to earlier EU countries] dropped sharply.

The idea of providing aid to Mexico has not been part of the public discourse in the United States, where the economic conditions of its southern neighbors are seen as their own affair. U.S. proponents of EU-style subsidies to lift Mexico closer to its partners in NAFTA are few and far between.

One of them is Robert Pastor, head of the Center for North American Studies at the American University in Washington. Pastor has for years argued that the U.S., Canada and Mexico should set up a North American investment fund to finance infrastructure projects and shrink the income gap between Mexico and its richer partners.

An investment of $20 billion a year over the next 10 years in Mexico in roads and communications connecting the poor southern part of Mexico to the North American market, Pastor says, would attract new companies to invest in Mexico and encourage many Mexicans to stay home and others to return.

This assumes that the immigrants need the low-end jobs in more developed economies than vice-versa; that vice-versa is the standard argument for the Bush Administration (even if it’s not clearly spelled out). In the EU’s case, the curtailment of Spanish and Portugese cheap labor was quickly replaced by a Turkish, North African and Arabic influx — and a more contentious immigration imbroglio today. So even if an economic renaissance is pulled off in Mexico, the void left on the continent’s economic lower rung will be filled by Central and South Americans, or some other eager immigrant group.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 03/30/2006 07:51:41 PM
Category: Business, Political
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Oh, how I love to see this blog’s traffic graph reach for the skies. At this moment, a bunch of Farkistanis (or whatever they’re called) are pointing their browsers thisaway. No surprise, it’s my “Jill Wagner, The Mercury Girl” post that’s bringing in the hordes.

I’d love to know just exactly what the topic du jour is that’s citing the popular car commercial spokeswoman. Unfortunately, I can’t tell, because the referring link is actually on TotalFark, which is a restricted registration-only zone.

So I’m left to wonder what those Web hipsters are yammering about. On the off-chance that any of those visitors should find their way here, please give me the lowdown. Thanks.

And if you’re looking for a more timely bit of televised commercial trivia, may I recommend the weirdo Milky Way “Panda Bear” spot and/or the kitschy Old Navy “Clap! Shake! Jump!” retromercial. Both mondo popular with the visitors here.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 03/30/2006 06:01:42 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Internet
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Wednesday, March 29, 2021

birthing technique
I didn’t want to post this picture of Daniel Edwards’ “Monument to Pro-Life: The Birth of Sean Preston”, currently on display at Brooklyn’s Capla Kesting Fine Art gallery. Honestly, I didn’t.

But this sculpted likeness of a nude and pregnant Britney Spears, which is causing the predictable stir, just would not leave my mind. Maybe it was the puzzling inclusion of the bearskin rug. Or my curiosity about just how much anatomical detail was included on the backside, i.e. “action”, portion of this sculpture…

By the time evening fell, I was practically compelled to upload it. And so I did.

I get a kick out of Edwards’ apparently non-ironic intentions:

Edwards, whose sculpture of Ted Williams’ decapitated head — which was frozen in the hope that medical science could one day revive the baseball great — stirred up an artistic storm, said the sculpture of Spears was a “new take on pro-life.”

“Pro-lifers normally promote bloody images of abortion. This is the image of birth,” he said.

When Edwards was asked why he creates art that generates publicity by selecting subjects hyped in the media, he said: “You’re bombarded with these stories. And there’s a thread that winds back to the art. That’s not a bad thing. People are interested in these topics, and it works for art as well.”

If it’s really a genuine demonstration of pro-life support, it’s avant-garde enough to make the mainstream anti-abortionists nerve-wrackingly suspicious. So if nothing else, Edwards has accomplished that.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 03/29/2006 08:48:52 PM
Category: Celebrity, Creative, Political
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Stealth partying has reached its apogee with event-planned house parties, staged undercover-style in warehouse lofts throughout the five boroughs.

To avoid leaving a paper trail, almost none of the loft-party organizers print fliers. Some declined to speak in detail for this article for fear of exposure. Secrecy, they said, is both their best defense and their biggest draw.

Advertised through online Listservs, Web sites like MySpace.com and word of mouth, the house parties are open to anyone who unearths the secret address and is willing to pay the $5 to $15 cover charges.

They include rock shows, performance art and D.J.-fueled discos.

I have yet to score an invite to one of these illicit pajamy-jams — “yet” representing a perhaps too-hopeful assumption. I’m not about to go trolling through Craigslist’s events listing to discover one. But if anyone has the insider scoop, clue me in.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 03/29/2006 08:08:46 PM
Category: New Yorkin', Society
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A couple of days ago, I was clowning around with my little cousin, James. He started throwing his little fist into the air in front of me, and I started doing the same toward him. As our clenched fists made contact, I said to him, “Wonder Twin powers, activate!”

He looked at me quizzically, as though I were speaking Chinese.

And it occurred to me: This soon-to-be five-year-old had no earthly clue who Zan and Jayna were. Nor has he ever marveled at the spectacular fashion by which the Twins would prime their transformative powers, just to wind up with lame water-animal combinations that invariably needed Gleek the Wonder Monkey’s participation to be at all effective.

I guess this GenX-beloved catchphrase is fading into pop-cultural oblivion. I’m not sure if I envy or pity young James.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 03/29/2006 06:18:38 PM
Category: Pop Culture, TV
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If you were to come upon a business establishment named “CUM Books”… Well, you could make some pretty safe assumptions about what sort of books you’d find inside.

Except, if said establishment was in Johannesburg, you’d be wrong. Because CUM Books is a leading Christian bookstore chain in South Africa. So take that, sinner.

Why would a Bible-pushing business opt for such an unfortunate name? Apparently, the South African national character has a thing about indiscriminate linguistic and cultural labels.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 03/29/2006 05:33:12 PM
Category: Society
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Nothing like going grocery shopping and coming across a DVD of The Falcon and the Snowman in a bargain bin. Five bucks later, it’s sitting on my coffee table for future viewing one late night.

Believable political/espionage thrillers are rare, and I have little patience for hokey or stylized ones. Falcon is one of the rarities, no doubt aided by its basis in actual events. It managed to capture Cold War tensions and the gritty political/cultural landscape of the mid-1970s almost perfectly. The performances, led by Timothy Hutton and Sean Penn, brought the whole thing home.

I don’t buy many DVDs, but I couldn’t resist this one. Despite the lack of extra features on this disc, it’s well worth the space it’ll take up on the shelf.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 03/29/2006 02:56:40 PM
Category: Movies
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That Red Bull and vodka sure is tasty. But the liquid equivalent of a speedball can also zonk you out hard: The stimulant effect of the energy drink masks the symptoms of intoxication, leading to overindulgence.

I’d think that any caffeinated drink mixer, like Coke, would have a similar effect. After all, you’re still combining stimulant (cola) and depressant (alcohol). I guess the extra kick in energy drinks is what pushes things over the edge.

I suppose if you want to avoid the ill effects, you could go for caffeine-free Coke and non-alcoholic vodka. But then, all you’re left with is the damned taste…

(Via Signifying Nothing)

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 03/29/2006 02:29:54 PM
Category: Food, Science
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Tuesday, March 28, 2021

What the hell? According to my Yahoo! Publisher Network account, someone actually clicked on one of the YPN ads I’ve been running in this blog’s RSS feed.

I make note of this because it’s taken nearly three months of running those ads for the first bite. That kind of clickthru conversion isn’t inspiring me to expand the YPN implementation anywhere else on this site.

I noted the last time that RSS is probably not the ideal testing ground for an ad network. Still, I’m not seeing the ads getting much more relevant, and if Yahoo! can’t dope that out, I can’t see how they’re ever going to be worthwhile. Google AdSense is chugging along quite nicely for me (especially lately), so there’s no way I’m going to mess with that. I do wish AdSense would roll out public RSS ads — I’ve read that they’re beta testing — so that I could try those out, for comparison’s sake.

Like I wrote before, I’ll keep YPN on the feed for as long as it’s low-maintenance. But I’m declaring it a dud.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 03/28/2006 11:01:12 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Bloggin'
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Last night I went to happy hour at Mannahatta, a little hipster watering hole on Bleecker and Bowery. It was hosting a freelancers’ social networking gathering organized by Media Bistro. I was told by hostess Alison Mitchell that Mannahatta is located not too far from Media Bistro’s offices, so it’s a big reason why it won out as the bar of choice.

I felt a bit like a fraud. I don’t know if I’m really a freelancer, and if I am, it’s by default. True, the last few pieces of work I’ve had have been freelance assignments; but I’m in search of a traditional, fulltime gig. About half of the people I talked to at Mannahatta were dedicated freelancers. Of course, half weren’t, so…

I’m considering going to the next such event with “blogger” instead of “writer/editor” on my nametag. It would stand out more, I think, and elicit more interesting reactions.

I chatted with a guy who was a bigshot for MTV Interactive, incorporating all of MTV Networks’ websites. I told him about my blog, my publishing experience, and gave him my card. If he gets in touch, great. If nothing else, he might pass this URL around and get me some traffic.

The only other noteworthy thing about the crowd was what seemed like a preponderance of photographers, including a couple with cameras snapping away. Maybe it only seemed like there were a bunch of them.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 03/28/2006 09:55:06 PM
Category: New Yorkin', Publishing
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a buffet of panda bear
Yes, that bizarro Milky Way commercial is buzzing up this here blog. And inevitably, someone tracked down the video clip, via Salon.com’s Video Dog.

If you should want a copy for your offline-viewing pleasure, right-click here for the .mov file. Load it up on your iPod and go; I know I will.

The Salon reaction is a bit mixed. I’m guessing the ad appeals more to the youngster set, which Salon doesn’t really cater to.

Y’know, for all the exposure I’m giving this ad, I think I’m owed a box of Milky Way bars (regular and Midnight), for free. That’s the deal that latenight talkshow hosts get for unsolicited product plugs, after all. That would make me a buffet of manliness, and a not-so-blue panda bear, too.

UPDATE, 5/30/2006: The burning question is now answered: The identities of the actors playing “Neil” and the mini-Milky Way girl are revealed.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 03/28/2006 05:33:18 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Food
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When Larry The Cable Guy comes out with a movie, it’s pretty much a slam-dunk that the laughs will be scarce.

But consider: Larry’s comedic persona includes an occupational title, “cable guy”. Yet the movie’s title is Larry The Cable Guy: Health Inspector. When the character’s defining MO needs to be supplemented thusly, it doesn’t take a genius to figure that the movie stinks to high hell.

Oh, and also the fact that Larry The Cable Guy is in it. Did I already mention that? If not, let David Cross give you a detailed explanation for why Mr. Git-R-Done is a hack.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 03/28/2006 02:47:44 PM
Category: Comedy, Movies
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Monday, March 27, 2021

We’ve already noted that office romances are increasingly en vogue. But if you don’t want to commit to that, you can always opt for the emotional surrogate that is the “office spouse”.

Several factors help such friendships thrive. One is the sheer number of women in the work force. Women represent 51 percent of the country’s 48.5 million workers in management and professional occupations, [job-placement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas chief exec John] Challenger said. Office spouse relationships are most likely to form in these jobs.

Another is the climate that Generation X and Y workers grew up in. They came of age witnessing gender parity in college and later when entering the work force, he said. The parity in these relationships is the norm for younger generations.

“What’s new is that these relationships between men and women are less fraught with risk,” Challenger said.

This isn’t new to me; I’ve seen it myself, and heard and read of examples about it for at least the past five years. When you have employees grouped together by task groups, it’s natural that you’ll have eminently compatible personalities. Factor in the hours spent together, and you have a joyfully faux pairing.

I’ve worked in offices where the women were the majority, and I “acquired” a couple of workplace wives along the way. It never went any further than desktop camaraderie; it was as much a part of the job landscape as any other office fixture. It was fun to have a playmate.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 03/27/2006 11:56:41 PM
Category: Business, Society
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Yesterday, I went to church for the first time in a long while. It wasn’t wholly voluntary — I was pretty well obliged to go, as part of the service included a brief memorial to a departed uncle.

Reason aside, the service reminded me of why I’ve not cared for church services ever since I was a kid: The incessant stand-and-sit ritual. I’m not lazy, but I can think of better ways to spend a Sunday morning than shifting my ass up and down a hard wooden pew.

The semi-exercise did put me in mind of the bowing regimen in Buddhist worship, and how it helps achieve consciousness. I guess there’s something intrinsically universal about linking physical activity with religious service. I can’t say it enhances my experience, though.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 03/27/2006 09:17:20 AM
Category: Society
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Sunday, March 26, 2021

How do you flatten out the idea-conceptualization machine in the average corporate environment? Rhode Island’s Rite-Solutions has come up with Business Innovation Factory, an internal stock market-like setup where employee ideas are posted and then allowed to either thrive or die in the court of opinion (backed up by money credits that are used to invest in the mock stock).

The structure led to a couple of lucrative product lines for Rite-Solutions, as well as requests from other companies to license the system.

This case study brought to mind the recently-concluded “wisdom of crowds” attempt at The Business Experiment. Maybe there’s something to be said for democracy within capitalism.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 03/26/2006 11:53:20 PM
Category: Business, Creative
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